NEW YORK – They branded her Tokyo Rose, but Iva Toguri was no traitor.

However, when she turns 90 Tuesday – the Fourth of July – that fact will give her little comfort.

Because to many Americans, Toguri was Tokyo Rose – the sultry siren whose radio broadcasts from Japan demoralized GIs fighting in the Pacific during World War II.

Never mind that President Gerald Ford pardoned Toguri after her treason trial was revealed to be a sham. Never mind that U.S. veterans groups have since embraced her.

The shame and stigma still dog Toguri’s steps. So she will mark her birthday the way she has been living since she was released from prison – quietly and far from prying eyes.

“She’s not crazy about publicity,” said Ron Yates, a former Chicago Tribune reporter whose stories about Toguri’s rigged treason trial helped win her the presidential pardon. “Her entire life was destroyed by a miscarriage of justice, and you couldn’t be more American than she was.”

Toguri, who declined to be interviewed, lives on the north side of Chicago. She still pops into J. Toguri Mercantile, the imported Japanese goods store her dad opened after the war. But she spends most of her time with her nephews and nieces.

“She’s spry, funny, a tough lady,” said Yates. “What happened to her is a tragedy.”

Born Ikuko Toguri in Los Angeles to Japanese immigrant parents, Toguri was an all-American girl. A Girl Scout, a Methodist, a Republican, she loved big band music and hated sushi. She insisted on being called Iva.

A few months before Pearl Harbor, Toguri traveled to Japan to visit a sick aunt. When the war broke out, she was stranded in Tokyo.

Toguri resisted Japanese pressure to renounce her U.S. citizenship. But desperate for money, she agreed to work on a Japanese propaganda radio show manned by Allied prisoners called “Zero Hour.”

Playing on the name of her favorite cartoon character, “Orphan Ann” Toguri did comedy skits and introduced newscasts. And she used some of her earnings to feed starving POWs and help support her husband, a Portuguese national of Japanese descent named Felipe D’Aquino.

After Japan surrendered, two reporters offered a then princely reward of $250 to anyone who could identify Tokyo Rose – the name given by U.S. forces to several different English-speaking female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda. Somebody fingered Toguri, and she was arrested by military police.

Jailed for a year, Toguri was released after the FBI found no evidence she aided the Japanese. But when columnist Walter Winchell learned Toguri was trying to return home, he led a crusade to have her rearrested and tried.

Toguri was eventually convicted of treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison when two former colleagues at the radio station testified that she had made propaganda broadcasts. She served six years before she was released.

Federal authorities tried to deport her, but she resisted. She moved to Chicago and tried to start over, without her husband. The couple had been forcibly separated since Toguri was brought to the United States for trial. Their baby had died shortly after birth. Realizing they would never be reunited, the couple finally divorced. D’Aquino died in 1996.

Toguri’s fortunes improved when Yates tracked down her accusers, who admitted they lied under pressure from prosecutors. That led to a “60 Minutes” report by Morley Safer that persuaded Ford to restore Toguri’s citizenship.

Yates said he fears Toguri will never escape Tokyo Rose, because the myth has been more enduring than the truth.

“I, like everybody else, assumed she was a traitor,” he said.



(c) 2006, New York Daily News.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-07-03-06 2051EDT



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